[Federal Register: July 21, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 139)]
[Page 42089-42090]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 42089]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Draft Bison and Elk Management Plan 
and Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park 
Service, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), as lead agencies, 
announce that the Draft Bison and Elk Management Plan (Plan) and 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the National Elk Refuge and 
Grand Teton National Park/John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway 
(Grand Teton National Park) is available. This draft Plan/EIS was 
prepared pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration 
Act (NWRS Improvement Act), as amended; the National Park Service 
Management Policies 2001; and the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA). The draft Plan/EIS was prepared in cooperation and partnership 
with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service (APHIS); the U.S. Forest Service; the Bridger-Teton 
National Forest (BTNF); the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); and the 
State of Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD). The draft Plan/EIS 
describes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's and the National Park 
Service's proposal for management of the Jackson bison and elk 
populations within their respective jurisdictions for 15 years, 
beginning at the completion of a Record of Decision (ROD) on the final 
Plan/EIS. Six alternatives for the management of bison and elk 
populations in the National Elk Refuge and the Grand Teton National 
Park are considered in the draft Plan/EIS.

DATES: Written comments must be received at the postal or electronic 
address listed below on or before September 30, 2005.

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to obtain a copy of the draft 
Plan/EIS, please write to: Jackson Bison and Elk Management Planning 
Office, P.O. Box 510, Jackson, Wyoming 83001; telephone: 307-733-9212, 
or e-mail: bison/elk_planning@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information, contact 
Laurie Shannon, Planning Team Leader, Region 6, 134 Union Boulevard, 
Lakewood, Colorado 80228, telephone 303-236-4317. In addition, copies 
of the draft Plan/EIS may be downloaded from the project Web site: 

    The draft Plan/EIS will be available for reading at the following 
main branch libraries: State of Wyoming: Albany County--Laramie; 
Fremont County--Dubois, Lander, and Riverton; Laramie County--Cheyenne; 
Lincoln County--Afton; Park County--Cody; Natrona County--Casper; 
Sheridan County--Sheridan; Sublette County--Pinedale and Big Piney; 
Sweetwater County--Rock Springs; and Teton County--Jackson and Alta. 
State of Colorado: Denver and Fort Collins. State of Idaho: Idaho 
Falls, Rexburg, Swan Valley and Victor. State of Montana: Bozeman, 
Livingston, Missoula, and Ennis. It will also be available at the 
following colleges and universities: State of Wyoming: Casper College 
Library, Casper; Central Wyoming College Library, Riverton; University 
of Wyoming Library, Laramie; Northwest College Library, Powell; 
Sheridan College Library, Sheridan; and Western Wyoming College 
Library, Rock Springs. State of Colorado: Colorado State University 
Library, Fort Collins. State of Montana: Montana State University 
Library, Bozeman; and the University of Montana Library, Missoula. 
State of Idaho: University of Idaho Library, Boise.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service 
will hold public hearings on the draft Plan/EIS and encourage 
interested persons and organizations to attend and provide comments at 
one of the meetings. The times and places of the meetings will be 
provided in a Planning Update to be mailed to agencies, organizations, 
and individuals on the mailing list; in notices in area newspapers; and 
on the project Web site.

    The National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park are located 
just north of Jackson, Wyoming. Together with the BTNF, they make up 
most of the southern half of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The 
National Elk Refuge comprises about 24,700 acres, the Grand Teton 
National Park comprises 309,995 acres, and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. 
Memorial Parkway is about 23,777 acres. The Jackson bison and elk herds 
make up one of the largest concentrations of free-ranging ungulates in 
North America. Currently, these herds total approximately 800 bison and 
13,500 elk. The herds migrate across several jurisdictional boundaries, 
including Grand Teton National Park and southern Yellowstone National 
Park, BTNF, BLM resource areas, and State and private lands, before 
they winter in the BTNF and the National Elk Refuge. Due to the wide 
range of authorities and interests, including management of resident 
wildlife by the State of Wyoming on most federal lands, the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service have used a 
cooperative approach to management planning involving all of the 
associated Federal and State agencies and a broad range of organized 
and private interests.
    A management plan (Jackson Bison Herd Long Term Management Plan and 
Environmental Assessment) was developed by the National Park Service 
and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the WGFD 
and the BTNF, for the Jackson bison herd, and finalized in September 
1996. In 1998, a lawsuit was brought by the Fund for Animals (FFA) 
enjoining most federal management actions proposed in the 1996 plan. 
The court ruled that the controlled hunting of bison on federal lands, 
for population control purposes, could not be carried out until 
additional NEPA compliance was completed for those actions. The court 
also directed that additional NEPA compliance consider the effects of 
the supplemental winter-feeding of elk on the Jackson bison population 
in the National Elk Refuge.
    The NWRS Improvement Act of 1997 requires that Comprehensive 
Conservation Plans be developed for all national wildlife refuges. At 
the National Elk Refuge, elk management-including supplemental winter-
feeding-would make up the most significant activity in the CCP. In 
order to coordinate the NEPA compliance required for the National Elk 
Refuge under the NWRS Improvement Act, for the Grand Teton National 
Park under the National Park Service Management Policies of 2001, and 
for the FFA lawsuit, and because many management actions for one 
species affect both species, in 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service and the National Park Service proposed this planning process.
    Significant issues addressed in the draft Plan/EIS include: Bison 
and elk populations and their ecology; restoration of habitat and 
management of other species of wildlife; supplemental winter feeding 
operations of bison and elk; disease prevalence and transmission; 
recreational opportunities; cultural opportunities and western 
traditions and lifestyles; commercial operations; and the local and 
regional economy.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, 
in cooperation with the WGFD and the other Federal agencies, developed 
six alternatives for the management of bison

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and elk. These include: Alternative 1--No Action; Alternative 2--
Minimal Management of Habitat and Populations; Support Migration; 
Alternative 3--Restore Habitat, Support Migration, and Phase Back 
Supplemental Feeding; Alternative 4--Restore Habitat, Improve Forage, 
and Phase Back Supplemental Feeding; Alternative 5--Restore Habitat, 
Improve Forage and Continue Supplemental Feeding; and Alternative 6--
Restore Habitat, Adaptively Manage Populations, and Phase Out 
Supplemental Feeding.
    Alternative 4, the proposed action, strives to balance the major 
issues and stakeholder perspectives, identified during prescoping and 
public scoping, with the purposes, missions, and management policies of 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. 
Assuming that the WGFD's herd objective of 11,029 had been met, and 
that higher numbers of elk would use the winter range, approximately 
4,000-5,000 elk and up to 500 bison would winter in the National Elk 
Refuge, and 1,300-1,600 elk would summer in the Grand Teton National 
Park. The elk hunt in the National Elk Refuge, and the herd reductions 
in the Grand Teton National Park would continue. A bison hunt would be 
instituted in the National Elk Refuge. Supplemental feeding would take 
place only in above-average winters (estimated to occur in roughly 5 
out of 10 years). The potential for disease outbreaks would be somewhat 
reduced, and WGFD personnel would be permitted to use Strain 19 to 
vaccinate elk.
    After the review and comment period for this draft Plan/EIS, all 
comments will be analyzed and considered by the lead agencies. A final 
Plan/EIS will be prepared and published, and will include the 
substantive comments received and the lead agencies' responses to those 
comments. Changes made to the proposed action will also be identified 
in the final Plan/EIS. A ROD and final management plan will then be 
    All comments received from individuals on environmental impact 
statements become part of the official public record. Requests for such 
comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information 
Act, the Privacy Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6(f)), and other policies and procedures of 
the lead agencies and DOI.
    Reviewers should provide their comments during the review period of 
the draft Plan/EIS. This enables the lead agencies to analyze and 
respond to the comments at one time and to use information acquired in 
the preparation of the final Plan/EIS, thus avoiding undue delay in the 
decision making process. Comments on the draft EIS should be specific 
and should address the adequacy of the plan, the impact statement, and 
the merits of the alternatives discussed (40 CFR 1503.3).
    In the final Plan/EIS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will 
respond to all substantive comments. Comments are considered 
substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document.
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the 
environmental analysis.
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EIS.
     Cause changes or revisions to the Bison and Elk Management 
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the 

    Dated: July 13, 2005.
Ralph O. Morgenweck,
Regional Director, Region 6, Denver, CO.
[FR Doc. 05-14226 Filed 7-20-05; 8:45 am]